Cashen AldersonOne of the things we’ve talked about a lot recently is how one of the primary functions of a general manager is talent accumulation. Frank Cashen is held up as the best GM in club history and there’s little doubt he did a tremendous job in adding talent to the organization. Sandy Alderson is trying to follow a similar blueprint. How does Alderson compare to Cashen in this regard?

Let’s start off with Cashen and 1984, which was his fifth year on the job. By this time he had done a fantastic job of accumulating young talent. There were 17 players who saw time with the Mets in ’84 at age 25 or younger, including some of the top names in franchise history, like Backman, Darling, Fernandez, Gooden and Strawberry. Now, Cashen did not acquire all of these guys, but he gets credit for not losing/trading away someone like Backman.

In addition to those 17 who played in the majors in 1984, there were at least 47 others in the minors age 25 or under who would one day make the show. This grouping did not have the star power as their major league counterparts but it still included guys like Rick Aguilera, Lenny Dykstra and Randy Myers, so it’s not like it was just all guys who played part of one year in the majors, either.

So, how has Alderson done in this regard?

The Opening Day roster figures to have at least seven guys who fit this bill and three more in Jacob deGrom, Travis d’Arnaud and Juan Lagares who just miss this arbitrary cut off at age 26. Furthermore, top prospects like Herrera, Matz, Mazzoni, Plawecki and Sydnergaard all figure to see major league action this year.

That still leaves recent top picks like Conforto, Smith, Cecchini and Nimmo unaccounted for, as well as international guys like Rosario, Molina and Urena. And the lower minors are filled with guys like Becerra, Diaz and Meisner who may one day reach the show.

Right now it’s impossible to do an accurate comparison of talent acquisition between Cashen and Alderson, as the latter’s work is still in progress. Guys we have high hopes for now may end up missing their ceilings while others barely on our radar may leap up and surprise us. No doubt that at the end of ’84, expectations were high for Abner and Jefferson and that didn’t quite turn out. On the flip side, no one expected undrafted free agent and Queens, New York native Heathcliff Slocumb to have a 10-year career in the majors then, either.

At the same time, the collection of young talent right now looks extremely promising. Minor league maven John Sickels recently did his overview of the Mets and he concluded with this line:

“Overall, Mets fans should be pleased with the condition of the farm system.”

29 comments on “Will Sandy Alderson match Frank Cashen in talent acquisition?

  • Patrick Albanesius

    The biggest difference so far is that Cashen had options in Hernandez and Carter to go out and improve the team dramatically with overnight moves. The current baseball atmosphere doesn’t seem to lend itself to that being repeated. For starters, the Mets are in need of only one position, shortstop. But there is really only one obvious option that is a huge upgrade. However, that option, Tulo comes at a considerable cost to the farm, the stressed financials, and has a well-known injury history. Besides him, there are hardly any options out there that will drastically improve that position. Granderson and Cuddyer are place holders for Nimmo and Conforto, so it doesn’t make sense for the Mets to be in on anyone like Justin Upton. Our second baseman might walk, but we have at least two options to replace him in house, and we have another catcher coming up. So what really is there for Alderson to do at the moment? Not much, IMHO.

    • Michael Geus

      The Carter and Hernandez deals were just like a Tulo deal. Both were motivated by money, those two players were two of the highest paid in the game at the time. Hernandez, when acquired, was also a “rental,” a pending free agent. Yes, if you look at the dollars they look very different, but the best seat in the house cost $7.50 in 1983. It is all relative.

      The difference is not that there are not comparable deals to be made, it is that back then the Mets had a real owner in Nelson Doubleday who had the financial wherewithal to understand how much profit could be made by investing in his baseball team. Now we have, well, we know what we have.

      It all started with Doubleday, who hired Cashen. It starts at the top. How can anyone compare Cashen to Alderson? They didn’t even perform the same job, do not let the titles fool you.

      Frank Cashen was hired to build a successful baseball team. Sandy Alderson was hired to slash payroll and be a front man for cowardly owners.

      Both by the way are American success stories. Cashen’s record speaks for itself, and so does Sandy’s.

      A payroll lower than the Brewers and he has stood tall and willingly said pretty much anything his owners want him to say. And for this he has been very well paid and given an extension.

      Good for him, I guess, who cares about a reputation when there is stuff to still buy before you die.

      • Brian Joura

        What does it do for Alderson’s reputation if he wins a World Series while working for owners generally acknowledged to be in the bottom half of the “desirable to work for” group?

    • eric

      Yes. Yes. Yes.

      Although I would probably feel ok about sacrificing two top prospects (Syndergaard and another pitcher not named Matz) plus Gee or Niese, and Reynolds. Maybe Rosario if that’s what it takes since he’s probably 4 or 5 years away anyway. Then send Murphy to SF to try and recoup at least 1 prospect.

  • Rob

    Most GM’s can accumulate minor league talent when the major league club is ignored for the most part, like has been the case with the current Mets. The proof in the pudding is putting the finishing touches on the work and taking marginal players and turning them into big upgrades. Where are the equivalent trades of Mazzilli for Darling and Terrell, Terrell for Hojo, Ownbey and Allen for Hernandez. And please trading future HOFers for A ball players and reigning Cy Young winners for minor leaguers is not on the same level. These are the kinds of moves we need now to put us over the hump, even the Carter move was a stroke even though we gave up considerable talent, we got what we needed.

    • JC

      ok for Carter the mets gave up Hubie Brooks, Mike Fitzgerald, Floyd Youmans, and Herm Washington all these playes together don’ add up to Thor. Hubie Brooks was a nice to very good player so even assuming Tulo = Carter which I don’t concede Jon Niese to me = Hubie Brooks. I was way to young and imfo on the minores was not as readily available back then so I don’t know the comps for the minor leaguers would be but Gary was making 13.1 over 5 years not 100mill + over 8. So Tulo and Carter are in no way equivalent.

      • Rob D

        Please lets not bring salary dollars into the equation. At that time (I’m 62) I was making $10 grand a year and everyone thought I was in the tall green. Salaries and money between now and then can’t be compared. .

        • JC

          ok but my point was in 1984 he was averaging less than 3 mill a year. For a multiple time all star and the face of the team. even in 84 that was an affordable contract everywhere except montreal. the SS at isue here is making way out of proportion to that and on top of taking that contract they are asking so much that a source told ESPN NY that “fans would go “Bat Sh–” if they knew the price”

      • Rob

        If Thor has a career anywhere near the career that Hubie Brooks had we will be very happy. Your expectations and valuation for Thor is way over the top. Brooks was a proven major league player who played in 2 all star games, how can you even begin to value Thor who has never thrown a pitch in the major leagues as his equal much less greater than the entire package.

        • JC

          Simply put I always value affordable pitching with high sealing over an average hitter. Brooks Bated .269 OBP of .315 Slg of .403 OPS of .717 for his career and as for his all star seasons they came in 86 and 87 so you were not trading an All Star 3b you were trading a 3b/SS with potential with 4 other players which is why I said Niece is the Comp To Brooks so Id build a deal around Niece a young Left with years of control and given the astronomical cost of Tulo if you want more you send Cash. There you were acquiring a healthy former all star and as far as I can tell you gave up no one of the caliber of Thor.

          As for Hernandez that was less about money and more about Keith clashing with Whitey and the front office. Whitey was not a Keith fan Herzog felt Keith had a lack of hustle which Keith has talked about multiple times which is why you Got Keith Hernandez for Neil Allen and Rick Ownbey. Hernandez by his own admition was being punished with a trade to the “Stems” as he called them at the time.
          Sources for my data:

          for Hubie Brooks Stats
 about Keiths trade

  • JC

    This is an interesting comparison detractors say it’s time for Sandy to pull a Cashen and go get his Gary Carter and bring home a playoff team. I feel like its time to protect your system I feel like those saying go get Tulo would have been screaming for Cashen to trade Strawberry for Tulo. I feel like Sandy has acquired guys like Grandy and Cuddyer on reasonable contracts while protecting the system which was in such bad shape before he came along. We have a lot more organizational depth I don’t want Tulo unless its on our terms. I look for a Guy like either of the Cabreras or Drew to be signed on a short deal to compete with Flores and replace Tejada on the roster (I’m assuming tejada will DFA’ed if one is signed). I like that sandy dose not rush to Trade Davis last year or Gee until he gets the deal he wants. I think Sandy has been a very good GM I don’t think we should overpay for a name. I hope he does not over pay either in Cash or Treasure (prospects). Tulo smells to me more like Mo Vaughn than Gary Carter. Tulo has been great but he is always injured.

  • Chris F

    Interesting thought experiment. However, like batted ball exit speed, none of this means anything without a WS flag. There are no prizes of value associated with farm team quality. Unless Alderson brings home a world champion he will not be in the same league as Cashen as far as I am concerned.

    • JC

      I think thats fair but sandy’s work is not done yet. Also if WS pennits is the only measure then the mets were one out away from making Cashen’s tenure a failure. Players play a GM builds a system and Cashen built a deep system that created a decade of competitive baseball in queens, That to me is a success. I believe Sandy is building that type of system and as long as he does not blow it up to get one over priced, often injured SS those arms can make our beloved Mets a fun team to watch for the long hall.

      • Chris F

        There is a fine line between success and failure. Winners cross it. Losers don’t. So 1 out away holds no value — that team managed to defy that, then break the backs of the Red Sox. It’s become a high point in team history. The Rangers were 1 out away too, yet it’s the cardinals hoisting the flag. So far Anderson has built nothing but losing teams. He has made mostly bad FA signings and trades. He is one of the least honest and approachable GM in the game. I’ve come to see him as just another extension of the wilpons.

        • JC

          Ok couple things to respond to here:
          1) it is i fact a fine line between winning and losing one I believe is conquered by players. The Job of a GM is, in my opinion, to build a franchise that can play meaningful games for the long term. Sandy has not done that yet but I believe he is headed in the right direction. Before I get asked the extension of this philosophy is a Mangers job is to put his players in the best position to win (manage a bench and pen ect.) And the Job of the players is to win the game. So when evaluating a GM W’s are not a clear enough measurement IMHO
          2) I completely disagree with the Bad Trade point. I like the Davis deal from last year Wheeler for the oft injured Beltran, The Byrd deal obtained a good young Bull-pen arm and a 2B of the future, The Dicky trade is the type of trade that makes a franchise for years to come and that one sold high on a knuckleballer and we all know how inconsistent Knuckleballers are. On the trade front he has largely done very well id I have a criticism it is the trades he did not make I would of traded Reyes and Haresten but maybe he did not get a deal he liked he has shown he won’t trade assets until he gets what he wants that has served us well with Davis and Dickey
          3) Free agent signing are always hit and miss I don’t think we can judge either Grandy or Cudy yet but I believe both were done to put this team in a position to win. Kevin long will hopefully help Grandy and Cudy in addition to protecting Duda both in the lineup and as a platoon partner may also help write by bringing in one of his best friends in baseball hopefully taking pressure off the captain. Mayberry was not my first choice but in his roll he does mash Lefty pitching and should help lengthen the lineup and improve the bench when he is not playing. Young was a risk that did not pan out but he played well across town so the gamble was not without merit. FA is always a crapshoot the “best team money can buy” taught us that but sandy’s misses have not hamstrung this team long term like Steve Phillip or Omar Mnyias did. he has signed in my view smart contracts and not overpaid I’ve only been a Met fan since 86 (i’m only 33) but I’d rather the mistakes stick around for 2 to 3 years then 6 or 7. To often I’ve scene FA bite the mets. Frankly I’d rather be us then locked into bad long term contracts to players who are old and injured for too many years like our cross town rivals.
          4) As for honesty that to me is a mistake in a GM. I think he has been to open about dealing a pitcher and thats why there has been no deal yet because teams know he wants to move one before ST they want him to take 50 cents on the dollar. Because he has talked about wanting to add a SS Lefty Reliever and a righty bat that is all the talk. Personally I’d like him to shut up more. Talk about exploring all options to improve the tam but being happy with where the team is then do his work behind closed doors. like he did with Colon last year. Keep your moth shut lie through your teeth rather then negotiating in public and make your work ten times harder. Let the talking heads on tv radio and the net speculate and report them let your work confirm or deny.
          I’m not saying Sandy is the greatest GM in history I’m just saying I like his approach and in truth I think he has done the best job any GM could have done in the circumstance. There may be a time when we look back and say ok that did not work and its time for Sandy to go everyone in sports gets hired to get fired but I just think killing Sandy because he won’t overpay for ageing superstars based on the back of their baseball cards injuries be damned is short sited and the type of approach that far too often has damaged this team.

          • Patrick Albanesius

            I like your last paragraph very much.

        • Brian Joura

          Mostly bad trades? He hasn’t made many trades and I don’t see how you can say most of them were bad. Very few people panned the Pagan trade when it was made. It’s too soon to tell about the Davis deal. What other bad ones are you considering?

  • Michael Geus

    I’m a bottom line guy. Beginning in year five of his GM tenure the talent Frank Cashen acquired had the following win totals:

    1984, 90
    1985, 96
    1986, 103
    1987, 93
    1988, 100
    1989, 87
    1990, 91

    For an average of over 94 wins a year. Those totals in today’s game would equate to seven consecutive playoff appearances.

    After four consecutive losing seasons, which equals Cashens first four, it is now year five for Mr. Alderson.

    I would be very happy if Sandy can match what Cashen did except I would not live to see it, I do not think my heart can withstand that type of shock to my system.

  • Metsense

    Alderson has rebuilt the farm system while under severe financial restrictions. Cashen was not given that handicap. Cashen was able to give the Mets seven solid years of teams because he could trade and take on salary. Alderson, because of the financial restrictions, was and is unable to do that. Instead, Alderson has had to trade and remove salary (or potential salary) like Beltran, K-Rod, RA and Byrd). Under the circumstances Alderson has done a commendable job but at this point I can’t foresee the Mets next seven years as dominant like Cashen’s but I can see the nucleus of an above .500 team for that time frame. If Alderson decided to trade for Tulo, the Mets are so underfunded and financially restricted that there is no decision for Alderson to make. This does not dismiss Alderson from making the affordable, tweaking deals that separates a good GM from a great GM. So far Alderson has not shown that ability but he is very good at trading major league talent for good prospects.

    • Name

      “Alderson has rebuilt the farm system while under severe financial restrictions”

      Severe financial restrictions is not a handicap for building a minor league system. I would actually think it aids in the building of a farm system because you need to trade away talent that gets more expensive to get back cheap farm talent in return.
      For example, if the Mets had the resources, perhaps Beltran and Reyes are both still Mets, and that means the Mets would not have Wheeler, Reynolds, or Plawecki.

      I agree with Rob that it’s easy to accumulate minor league talent. Damn easy. It’s akin to a baby learning to walk, almost everyone can accomplish it.
      Name me a GM who was tried to build a farm system and failed and then i’ll believe that what Alderson done has been impressive.

      • Brian Joura

        If it’s so easy – what aren’t more teams successful doing it? Go back and look at the press conference for any new hire GM. Nearly all of them will talk about building through the farm system. Just because we had a GM in Minaya who did not make that his main focus does not mean that most GMs think that way.

        A GM who tried to build the farm system and failed? How about Cam Bonifay? Oversaw the drafts for the Pirates from 1994-2001. Here are his #1 picks:

        1994 – Mark Farris (#11 overall)
        1995 – Chad Hermansen (10)
        1996 – Kris Benson (1)
        1997 – J.J. Davis (8)
        1998 – Clint Johnston (15)
        1999 – Bobby Bradley (8)
        2000 – Sean Burnett (19)
        2001 – John Van Benschoten (8)

        He had a top 10 pick five times and the best he was able to come up with was Kris Benson.

        How about Herk Robinson? He oversaw Royals drafts from 1990-1999 and in that time frame they had 16 first-round and supplemental first-round picks. In that time frame he had one unqualified success in Johnny Damon. His next two best picks were Michael Tucker (8.1 bWAR) and Mike MacDougal (3.9 bWAR). The rest of them were stiffs like Sherrard Clinkscales, Matt Smith and Juan Lebron.

        How about Bill Bavasi? He oversaw Mariners drafts from 2003-2008. He hit on a supplemental pick with Adam Jones and Brandon Morrow has been decent. Otherwise he grabbed Jeff Clement, Matt Mangini, Phillipe Aumont and Josh Fields.

        How about Mark Shapiro? He oversaw Indians drafts from 2001-2010 and had 16 first or supplemental first-round picks. Jeremy Guthrie has been his best pick so far, although Lonnie Chisenhall finally showed something last year. Mostly it was guys like Micah Schilling, Johnny Drennen and Beau Mills.

        How about Kevin Towers? He oversaw Padres drafts from 1995-2009 and had 29 first and supplemental first-round picks. His biggest success story with those picks was Khalil Greene, with an 8.4 bWAR. All told 17 never reached the majors and four that did finished with a negative bWAR.

        • Name

          There’s a difference between talking about building a farm system and actual intentions. These teams you cited were all before i started following baseball intently so i don’t really know their full backstory. Also, building a farm system encompasses a lot more than just success in 1st round picks.
          By that measure, Sandy’s record of Nimmo, Cecchini, Smith, Conforto doesn’t seem overly impressive to me.

          Pirates probably wanted to build a farm system and failed. That’s one.

          The Mariners were quite good in 2003 when Bavaski took over and i’m assuming his main goal was to try to continue the success, not to gut the MLB club and rebuild the farm system.

          This is just one site, but it ranked the Indians as a top 5 farm system in 2007, the year they made the WS.

          Padres had plenty of success from 95-2009 and i’d doubt that the farm system wasn’t ranked high at some point during the tenure.

          It’s kinda hard to find teams where it’s clear the GM is focusing on the building the farm system and ignoring the MLB team.
          Among Sandy’s current peers, teams that come to mind are the Astros, Twins, Cubs, Rockies, Royals, and Pirates and the Mets. Probably the least successful of that group are the Rockies and Mets.
          According to John Sickel’s ratings, pre 2013 the Mets were #12 and Rockies #16 and pre 2014 the Mets were #12 and Rockies #8

        • Patrick Albanesius

          Wow, that’s a heck of an argument, Brian. Drafting, and particularly trading away veterans at ends of contracts, and receiving anything of value, is probably one of the hardest things in baseball. And that includes hitting.

  • Marc

    Wouldn’t talent acquisition include players acquired by trade? No mention of this. Cashen put together a WS winner, Alderson’s teams have yet to have a winning season. No comparison

    • JC

      Cashen Did not have a winning season till year 5 of his tenure this coming season is Alderson’s 5th year so we will see if he stays on the same territory as Cashen this should be a winning season Cashen according to the post above won 90 games in season 5 we will see what happens.

  • Ian Keogh

    Both are top notch GM’s, but Cashen did build this on the back of having 5 consecutive Top 5 picks in the draft (something Alderson hasn’t had the luxury of) … which netted Strawberry (1980), Gooden (1982), and Abner (1984 … whom we traded for Kevin McReynolds)

    Time will still tell with what Alderson can cook up, but I believe he is headed in the right direction. This is finally a group of ballplayers on the 2015 team that I can root for instead of a bunch of over-inflated salaries who produce nothing worthwhile.

  • James Preller

    Alderson traded a couple of guys that Omar came up with — Beltran and Dickey — and turned them into some fine players. Easy, easy trades to make, but he did a good job with them.

    That’s about it.

    His record in free agency is poor. His other trades, outside of Byrd, poor (and few). His minor league system, good, maybe. We will see.

    It’s borderline criminal to compare Alderson to Cashen, IMO.

  • Patrick Albanesius

    Dickey trade easy? He pulled away two, if not three major league impact players for a knuckleballer. Cy Young or not, I can’t believe Alderson had people beating down his door for a late-30s junkball guy. He made a killing. And getting a team’s top pitching product, for a rental, injury-riddled outfielder was not something that simply fell in his lap either. We should all rethink how easy it is to be in a competing team’s GM office, and try and get a deal done, while dealing with 28 other team’s interests in the back of your mind. Alderson has not won anything, so yes, comparing him directly to Cashen is silly. But Cashen had much more to work with both with useful ownership, and in terms of draft picks as stated earlier. And he has a completed track record, something Alderson is still making. Besides, the teams Cashen built should have created a dynasty, but they didn’t. Not necessarily Cashen’s fault, but if WS victories are the only qualifier for a good or bad GM then Cashen was, eh, ok.

    • JC

      A-men to your analyses of the trades. I’m not looking to down play what Frank did he built a fun team and a deep system but you are right to say WS rings can’t be the only metric on a GM. The players failed to preform to their potential in the 80’s the key players had bigger issues. Sandy has done a good job with what he had.

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